How to create extreme entertainment rooms

I know some wives are going to kill me for this post.

July 26th, 2007 at 4:00am — Comments: (0) — By: Jonathan Danylko — Tags: HowTo

Ever since I watched my first movie when I was a child, I was amazed as to how much equipment it took to entertain people with so much excitement in one room.

Flash forward to 30 years later. Now, you can equip a specific room with the best technology for possibly a new music server for your entire home, your own PVR (Personal Video Recorder), an extreme HD TV with surround sound, or the ultimate: an extreme home theater system. Since this is a technology site, I thought it'd be great to talk about these various systems and what it would take to setup these entertainment rooms.

Heck, why go to the movies?

Music Server

Of course, this is by far the simplest to setup in your house (provided you have a PC sitting around somewhere). All you need is a PC and the software to push the music through the house.

If you don't have a PC handy, I just ran across this post on Computer Shopper about building a $250 Linux PC. Specifically for home use only, this could be your streaming music server.

Take your love for music with MP3's, setup a server and you are ready to rock. Not only are there devices to stream the music through your house, but there are free servers out there to help you accomplish this task.

One particular free server is the ShoutCast Network server. They have feeds of Internet radio stations listed by genre and bit speeds. If you are a newbie to Internet radio stations, take a listen for a while using WinAmp, the iTunes alternative called Songbird, or Windows Media Player. Get a feel for what is happening.

Once you have a general understanding of streaming media, download the server software, set it up on a home server, point the server to a central MP3 directory, and your music will be streaming to any device that picks it up, wired or wireless.

LinuxDevices.com also posted a great article on building a Linux-based music server. Of course, they are using a mini-ITX machine. The machine is small enough so it's out of site, but powerful enough to push music.

Linux Music Server Diagram

The total cost of this "little" device is around $600. You're actually paying for the size of the device. :-)

Need to leverage your own iTunes Library? Make sure you check out this post about setting up your own iTunes Media Server.

TiVo? We don't need no stinkin' TiVo!

Anybody who has visited the site, knows that I built my own PVR, or TiVo-equivalent. I built this about a year ago and I've been building onto it ever since.

I know, I know...I just read about the HD low-priced TiVo Lite, but to be honest, since I've built my own, all I need to replace is the TV Tuner card with an HD card. Or better yet, add the HD card for less than $100 to provide additional functionality in the PVR.

With everything included in MythTV, the user community is constantly building more and more features into the recording software making it the best value for the money. Oh wait, I forgot...it's FREE. :-)

If you are interested in building your own PVR, here is my post on how to create a TiVo clone. There are more links there with a follow up regarding Windows software for a PVR as well.

HD TV with Surround Sound

High Definition (HD) TV is something everyone is into (and something I need to look into) because of the quality and definition of the picture, it actually emerses you into the movie or show.

Most top quality HD TV's are priced around the $2,000-$5,000 range. Oh, and you want surround-sound with that? That'll cost another $500-$2,000 as well. It is definitely not for th faint-of heart when switching to an HD TV setup. And that doesn't include buying all new HD-DVD's for your new system. Yowch!

While I'm no expert on HD TV's, one site I would recommend is CNET's HDTV World. They're constantly updating their site and have a lot of experts reviewing everything regarding HD every day.

Another interesting link I'll throw your way is the ExtremeTech's Home Theater Madness. While the author did upgrade his HD TV setup, it still was a long ways off from an extreme home theater.

Extreme Home Theaters

Now, this is a Home Theater.

Again, I'm not an expert, but I know what I like and these types of systems are expensive. So if you are in the planning stages, I would recommend the post on PVRBlog.com titled, Planning, Budgeting, Research, and Goals: Part I of Building your Perfect Home Theater and stay tuned for the remaining parts of the series.

Ok, that was to prepare you for what's next. And wives, I'm sorry, but I gotta show this. :-)

Ready for the equipment necessary? Good. There are individuals who are tech-savvy when building their custom home theater system and Steve Jenkins is one of those individuals.

Steve Jenkins created his own home theater. Again, not for the faint-of-heart. Steve Jenkin's Home Theater is possibly the best home theater I have ever seen. He also included a list of the home theater equipment he used in building his palace.

Steve Jenkins Home Theater Entrance Door

The one shot I love is the swing set just outside the house when you open up the ornate movie curtain. Priceless!

It has been a while since Mr. Jenkins posted his home theater project, but there are others who went further and built themed home theaters. VERY Scary!

If you are interested in more technology designs, search the web for "Home Theater Designs" for a more broadening view of what a home theater can offer.

Conclusion

As you can see, inviting guests over to your house on a Saturday night may not be as casual as 10 years ago. The guests enter your home while music is playing in the background, you watch the latest show that you recorded on your DVR, hook up a microphone and do a little Karaoke, and then finish off the evening with a fantastic, pulse-pounding movie in your extreme home theater complete with popcorn.

Hey, it beats playing dominoes.

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Jonathan Danylko is a freelance web architect and avid programmer who has been programming for over 20 years. He has developed various systems in numerous industries including e-commerce, biotechnology, real estate, health, insurance, and utility companies.

When asked what he likes doing in his spare time, he answers..."programming."

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